The Catholic Merit Game!

Back when I attended Catholic grammar school from 1961 to 1970, the nuns were quite clear about the church’s teaching on how a person could possibly attain Heaven. Yes, the church’s sacraments were important, but it was mostly about obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules. Merit was THE KEY to attaining Heaven. The emphasis was on merit, merit, and more merit.

Merit has since became somewhat of “stepchild” word within Catholicism. Is that development an ecumenical accommodation to Protestant sensibilities? I’ve even had Catholics who don’t know their own religion send in comments to this blog angrily insisting that Catholics are not attempting to merit their salvation. Yes, Catholics are absolutely still taught that they must merit their salvation as per the paragraph below and others similar to it in their catechism:

“Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2010

However, the emphasis these days is much more on the supposed graces received via the sacraments, which are alleged to enable a person to hopefully merit their salvation.

Our sister at Biblical Beginnings recently came across an excellent example of the era when I grew up when the Catholic church was much less circumspect about the role of merit in Catholic theology. There was actually a board game called “Merit: The Catholic Game,” which was designed by Edward J. Agnew in 1962 and sold by Educational Research Corp.

I did a little research on the internet and found that the game was somewhat based on Monopoly, but with Catholic themes:

“In “Merit,” two to four players work to build the six key properties (Church , Convent, Seminary, Catholic Charities, School and Foreign Missions) while maintaining their level of merits (700 points) and obtaining six of the seven sacraments. The first player to return home with the required six sacraments and at least 700 merit points after the six properties are built wins the game. The question deck is filled with pre-Vatican II trivia, but also has cards that offer the player a chance to advance via deeds rather than answers (e.g., a card that allows the player to go to any square if they promise to say the rosary).” See the article here.

So, “Merit” was a board game aimed at a Catholic audience, which unabashedly reinforced the teachings of the Catholic church, that its members needed to merit their salvation through the sacraments and obedience/good works.

I’m so grateful to the Lord for leading me out of works-righteousness Roman Catholicism and revealing to me the Good News! Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone! Won’t you repent of your sin and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone, also? Nowadays, merit is “somewhat” downplayed as a prime element of Roman salvation theology, but if you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig, and, yes, merit is STILL the bottom line for Roman Catholics.


Postscript: It’s quite ironic that Matthew 18:3 appears on the cover of this game: “Unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven” (NABRE). The simple, saving, childlike faith in Jesus Christ as Savior that the verse refers to is the antithesis of complex Roman legalism and ritualism.

36 thoughts on “The Catholic Merit Game!

    1. Thanks, Hope! I appreciate your prayers so much! Today is officially my last day and I will be emailing my separation agreement to Kodak today so I can collect my 3-month severance. My wife saw her doctor Wednesday and he approved her change from short-term to long-term disability. Yesterday, I signed up under her medical insurance plan. Things are shaping up for the short-term. Lots of red tape as my work benefits end today. Thank you! 🙏🏻 We can trust in the Lord in all circumstances.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Glad to hear a good “short term” report! You, your wife, and Chrissy are keeping my prayer life kinda active these days! Yes, we can trust Him! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Ryan. There are unknowledgeable people who erroneously argue that Catholics hold to the same Gospel as Bible Christians. No one is helped when the genuine Gospel is compromised and betrayed.

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  1. Wow, it’s so neat that you researched this and everything! It seems like a lot of people are forgetting what their religion actually teaches these days.

    Out of curiosity, are you a board game guy, my friend? I prefer card games, personally.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, sister! I appreciate the tip! Yes, these days it’s becoming more and more of “just love Jesus” with not much attention to right doctrine. I’ve never gotten into cards and I got away from board games when the kids got older. Just a boring old guy, now! 👨🏻‍🦳

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  2. Romans 11:6
    But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

    Augustine: Here surely is at fault the vain reasoning of those who defend the foreknowledge of God in opposition to His grace, and with this view declare that we were chosen before the foundation of the world, [Eph. i. 4.] because God foreknew that we should be good, but not that He Himself would make us good. So says not He, who declares, “Ye have not chosen me.” For had He chosen us on the ground that He foreknew that we should be good, then would He also have foreknown that we would not be the first to make choice of Him. For in no other way could we possibly be good: unless, forsooth, one could be called good who has never made good his choice. What was it then that He chose in those who were not good? For they were not chosen because of their goodness, inasmuch as they could not be good without being chosen. Otherwise grace is no more grace, if we maintain the priority of merit. Such, certainly, is the election of grace, whereof the apostle says: “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant saved according to the election of grace.” To which he adds: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works; otherwise grace is no more grace.” [Rom. xi. 5, 6.] Listen, thou ungrateful one, listen: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you.” Not that thou mayest say, I am chosen because I already believed. For if thou wert believing in Him, then hadst thou already chosen Him. But listen: “Ye have not chosen me.” Not that thou mayest say, Before I believed I was already doing good works, and therefore was I chosen. For what good work can be prior to faith, when the apostle says, “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin”? [Rom. xiv. 23.] What, then, are we to say on hearing such words, “Ye have not chosen me,” but that we were evil, and were chosen in order that we might be good through the grace of Him who chose us? For it is not by grace, if merit preceded: but it is of grace: and therefore that grace did not find, but effected the merit. Augustine, Tractate 86 on the Gospel of John, NPNF1, Vol. 7, Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Pg. 600-601

    Augustine: Now this election the Apostle demonstrating to be, not of merits going before in good works, but election of grace, saith thus: “And in this time a remnant by election of grace is saved. But if by grace, then is it no more of works, otherwise grace is no more grace.” [Rom. xi. 5, 6] This is election of grace; that is, election in which through the grace of God men are elected: this, I say, is election of grace which goes before all good merits of men. For if it be to any good merits that it is given, then is it no more gratuitously given, but is paid as a debt, and consequently is not truly called grace; where “reward,” as the same Apostle saith, “is not imputed as grace, but as debt.” [Rom. iv. 4] Whereas if, that it may be true grace, that is, gratuitous, it find nothing in man to which it is due of merit, (which thing is well understood in that saying, “Thou wilt save them for nothing,” [Psalm lvi. 7, Lat. and LXX. ὑπšρ τοῦ μηθενὸς σὡσεις αὐτούς. But Heb. and E.V. “shall they escape by iniquity?”]) then assuredly itself gives the merits, not to merits is given. Consequently it goes before even faith, from which it is that all good works begin. “For the just,” as is written, “shall live by faith.” [Habak. ii. 4] But, moreover, grace not only assists the just, but also justifies the ungodly. And therefore even when it does aid the just and seems to be rendered to his merits, not even then does it cease to be grace, because that which it aids it did itself bestow. With a view therefore to this grace, which precedes all good merits of man, not only was Christ put to death by the ungodly, but “died for the ungodly.” [Rom. v. 6] And ere that He died, He elected the Apostles, not of course then just, but to be justified: to whom He saith, “I have chosen you out of the world.” For to whom He said, “Ye are not of the world,” and then, lest they should account themselves never to have been of the world, presently added, “But I have chosen you out of the world;” assuredly that they should not be of the world was by His own election of them conferred upon them. Wherefore, if it had been through their own righteousness, not through His grace, that they were elected, they would not have been chosen out of the world, because they would already not be of the world if already they were just. And again, if the reason why they were elected was, that they were already just, they had already first chosen the Lord. For who can be righteous but by choosing righteousness? “But the end of the law is Christ, for righteousness is to every one that believeth. [Rom. x. 4] Who is made unto us wisdom of God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: that, as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” [1 Cor. i. 30, 31] He then is Himself our righteousness. Augustine, On Patience, Section 17, NPNF1 Vol. 3, Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Pg. 1159

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    1. SB, thanks for the quotes from Augustine, who Catholics acknowledge as one of their most important church fathers. I’ve heard Anders try to reconcile Augustine with Catholic works salvation by saying that, yes, righteousness initially comes through baptism and that there is absolutely no merit involved in that because the baptized person is usually a helpless infant. Then he says that all works that are subsequently done to merit Heaven are enabled by (sacramental) grace, therefore grace is the prime cause.


      1. Re: Anders

        My response to Anders is where does Augustine say that? LOL

        Calvin was also very heavily influenced by Augustine.

        Would Anders also want to discuss Augustine’s teaching on the Lord’s supper, which denies transubstantiation and is almost the same as the Calvinist teaching? LOL

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    1. Yes, to a believer it’s very grievous and even blasphemous to see salvation equated to a game! But for Catholics it made perfect sense because salvation is seen as a works process, much like a game piece going around the board and accumulating enough points to “win.”

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      1. You’re welcome! A review of my vacation in San Diego is not a bad idea, that will give me a little break from heavier posts too, that keeps me up late at night writing…lol

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      2. While I certainly appreciate and am blessed by the meatier posts, I also enjoy reading (and writing) the lighter stuff as well. BTW, my reading queue became thinned up because of all the stuff going on currently so I went back to my Martin Lloyd-Jones book on the Sermon on the Mount, which I started maybe a year ago. It’s a treat to read while also being heavy lifting. What were the next several chapters? On anxiety! What a blessing!

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